|05TELAVIV2194||2005-04-08 12:02:00||CONFIDENTIAL||Embassy Tel Aviv|
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
1. (C) Summary: Fatah's poor showing in Bar Association
elections in Gaza April 2 is an indication that, despite some
efforts, the party does not appear to be "getting the
message" in Gaza. Fatah Central Committee member Abdullah
Efrangi, now the newly-appointed Fatah chief in Gaza,
described Fatah's program of reaching out to grassroots party
members through a series of public meetings or "primaries,"
involving more members in the development of candidate lists.
Skepticism remains, however, about whether these efforts
will succeed in getting at what some feel is the heart of
Fatah's problem: Gazans' mounting frustration with tainted
officials in leadership positions and a lack of visible
improvements in their daily lives in the post-Arafat era.
Although Hamas has done well in two sets of elections in
getting its candidates elected, there is some evidence that
newly-elected Hamas municipal officials, unable to respond to
their constituents' concerns through lack of resources,
experience, or both, may join their Fatah counterparts in
facing an increasingly discouraged electorate. End Summary.
Fatah's Strategy in Action
2. (C) The newly-appointed Fatah chief in the Gaza Strip,
Abdullah Efrangi, assured Poloff April 5 that Fatah is indeed
taking steps to address the voter dissatisfaction displayed
in victories by Hamas and Hamas-affiliated candidates in
seven of the ten Gaza municipalities that held municipal
elections in January (Note: The ten municipalities were all
relatively small communities. Elections in the remaining
larger, urban areas of Rafah, Khan Yunis and Gaza City are to
take place later this year. End Note). Efrangi indicated
that he is acting with President Abbas' full support, in line
with plans developed in an early February meeting of the
Fatah Revolutionary Council (Ref A). He enthusiastically
described how the party is now encouraging selection of
candidates for the municipal elections from the bottom up,
rather than the top down, as happened in January (Ref B). As
an example of this approach, Efrangi described a meeting or
"primary" Fatah recently held in Rafah, where some 3,000
party adherents gathered to select 15 candidates for the
Fatah slate there in the upcoming municipals. The list of 44
from which the participants made their choices was itself the
result of an earlier public meeting in Rafah of 2,800 grass
roots party members. Similar meetings have been ongoing or
are planned for other municipalities where the second of
three rounds of elections will be held in early May.
Same Old Message
3. (C) Prominent Gaza attorney and would-be Legislative
Council candidate Sharhabeel al-Za'eem bemoaned the fact that
many suggested Fatah candidates are still "connected with
corruption," in a separate conversation about Fatah's efforts
to develop lists of electable candidates. Al-Za'eem said he
had just attended a session of Fatah party operatives in Dayr
al-Balah to discuss candidates, lists, and strategy for
upcoming PLC and municipal elections, and became more
discouraged than ever after the operatives said they are not
looking outside Fatah for qualified candidates, as Hamas is
doing by actively embracing independents. He said Fatah's
efforts to generate a new look are being further hampered by
the ongoing "generational struggle" within the party, which
detracts from efforts to woo electable candidates to Fatah's
banner. Al-Za'eem said that Fatah has consistently failed to
update its message to the people, trading instead on outdated
slogans from the 60's and 70's, despite monumental changes in
the situation on the ground.
Hamas Does it Again
4. (C) Al-Za'eem described the April 2 elections for
leadership positions in the Gaza branch of the Palestinian
Bar Association as a case in point. Clearly disgusted,
al-Za'eem said that Hamas-affiliated members won four of the
six seats, despite the fact that Fatah members comprise 320
of the 460 branch's members. Some 105 of the
Fatah-affiliated members did not show up to vote, al-Za'eem
said, but that still left 215 Fatah members voting, compared
with 140 non-Fatah (Hamas plus a small number of
independents) members. Nevertheless, he said, Fatah managed
to elect only two of its members, neither of whom is in any
way impressive. Al-Za'eem freely admitted that he was
discouraged by the entire process, adding that Fatah will
keep on losing, "until they are the smallest minority party
in the PLO." Fatah, he concluded, still does not understand
what the problem is and, despite some efforts, is not putting
forward electable candidates.
Hamas Can Win, But Can They Govern?
5. (C) Salah Sakka, an appointed member of the Gaza City
Council since 1994 and head of the Gaza office of ANERA
(American Near East Refugee Aid), echoed al-Za'eem's
skepticism that senior Fatah members have "gotten the
message" of Palestinians' disgruntlement with the party.
Other factions, such as Hamas, have wisely decided to
participate in the political process and are well-positioned
to capitalize on Fatah's weakness in upcoming races, he
opined. Sakka also cited continued infighting within the
party and ongoing generational conflict among the "younger"
and older party members as reasons why the party remains
unable to get its act together in Gaza.
6. (C) Sakka noted, however, that although the ten municipal
councils elected in January had been in office too short a
time to definitively gauge performance, their mayors are "not
doing well." Sakka ascribed the problem to a lack of
experience, saying that those elected, while by and large
"good people," have little or no experience in governing.
The PA Ministry of Local Government compounds the problem by
offering little in the way of either training or resources,
he said. Demonstrating his point, Sakka said that in recent
weeks, representatives from the new, non-Fatah councils in
Dayr al-Balah, al-Masdar, and Bayt Hanoun had been to ANERA's
offices in search of assistance -- in particular
infrastructure projects and training.
7. (C) Sakka's views on the performance of the new mayors
were echoed a few days later by Ministry of Interior DG for
Municipal Government Abdulsamia Efrangi (brother of Fatah
Central Committee member Abdullah), who painted an extremely
negative view of the voters' mood in Gaza. Efrangi assessed
the new municipal leaders as "failures," but added that he
was still not confident that Fatah could capitalize on the
perceived poor performance to date of the non-Fatah councils
elected in January.
Visit Embassy Tel Aviv's Classified Website:
You can also access this site through the State Department's
Classified SIPRNET website.